Striped Maternity Top

As the bump grows, I’m looking for creative ways to fill my wardrobe, and the lovely (and rather gorgeous) Liz over at the wonderful blog Cotton and Curls has totally inspired me. Two of her tutorials particularly excited me and so I raided my local Age Concern shop to find a couple of shirts that might be up to the challenge.

I tackled the button up top first. In the end, I didn’t follow the tute exactly – her top, though gorgeous, is non maternity, an I wanted something to cover my growing bump! So I decided to wing it.  Here’s a shot of the shirt before, and the lovely bump-friendly top after:

So how did I do it? Well, that’s a good question!! I didn’t take notes or pics as I went, which was a bit of a schoolgirl error, so I’ll try and describe it as best I can, but I’m sorry if it’s a bit vague and hard to follow!

  • First, I put the shirt on back to front, and in the mirror marked where I wanted the neckline to start at the shoulder, and how deep I wanted the neckline to be at the front. I also marked what I hoped would be a decent drop to under the bust, and put a pin on that line under the middle of each boob for a dart. I pinched the shirt snug on either side of the fullest part of the bust, and pinned front and back to mark how narrow I wanted the top to be.
  • I then took the shirt off and cut up all the way up along the side seams, separating the front from the back everywhere but the shoulder. I also took the sleeves off at the shoulder seams.
  • I added 1cm seam allowance to the neckline (I drew a freehand curve, and was pretty lucky with the outcome!) and cut out the neck.
  • Then, laying the now front (originally the back of the shirt!) flat, I added 1cm seam allowance to the under bust line, and cut the bottom of the top away (which to avoid all this ‘bottom’ and ‘top’ -ing, I’ll call the ‘bump’ segment!). I added 1cm seam allowance to the markings on the side of the (now) back and what’s left of the (now) front of the shirt, and trimmed up to the armholes.
  • Next, I took the bump segment and cut a 4cm strip from the top to make the empire strip. I stretched this strip across the front of my body, just below the bust line, to gauge what length I wanted it to be, and trimmed the appropriate amount from either end.
  • I matched the centre of the empire strip to the centre of the bust segment of the top, and then matched up each end, and pinned it out, putting the darts in where the pins marked the centre of each boob to match the lengths. Then I stitched along this line (leaving 1cm seam allowance). I pressed the seam down towards the empire strip, and top stitched along the seam.
  • Then, I ran a thread loosely along the width of the top of the bump segment, about half a cm from the cut edge. Holding the thread to the length of the empire strip, I gathered up the bump segment in the centre, which means that there is room to grow in the middle. (Which is where I’ll need it, I hope!). I evened out the gathers over about 5cm in the centre of the bump segment and stitched this section on the machine. Then I pinned the bump segment to the empire strip, and stitched along the seam (leaving 1cm seam allowance). I pressed the seams up towards the empire strip, and top stitched along the seam.
  • Next, starting at the armholes, I matched the shoulder seams up under the arms (leaving 1cm seam allowance – of course!) and pinned down the sides of the shirt. I then stitched the top up along this line.
  • I turned in a cm along the neckline and top stitched.
  • Finally (!) I trimmed the hemline, leaving a 2cm seam allowance this time for a thicker hem, and retaining some of the shirt tail shape. I turned it up and stitched.

Voilà! My first refashion, and I’m pretty proud. What do you think!?

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A knitter is born…

I don’t remember who taught me to knit – sacrilege I know.  I have 3 very strong knitting influences in my life who stick out among many other knitting friends and to whom, if I was stuck when I was learning, I would turn, but I can’t pinpoint quite which of them originally taught me to wield the needles.

I suspect it was my mother.  My mother is an extraordinarily creative woman, with a fantastic eye and exquisite taste, and if I have inherited even a third of her crafty capabilities I shall be a very happy bunny indeed.  My mother turns out knitted gifts at an alarming rate, but doesn’t limit herself to these – there’s also the quilting, the embroidery, the sewing, the sugarcraft… she’s one of these infuriating people who is amazing at everything she turns her hand to.  This is the woman who both decorated my wedding cake and made my wedding dress.

Then there’s my grandmother, from whom I inherited much of the DK and fingering weight wool in my stash (what will I do with all that!?).  She has wardrobes stuffed with handknit chunky sweaters and short 70s knitted jackets.  She is probably the woman who got me started technically.  Her eyesight is no longer up to knitting herself, but many’s the (somewhat frustrating) conversation we’ve had where she’s tried to explain to me again just how you cast on… over the phone.

And there’s my mother-in-law.  Keen knitter, but not so keen sewer-up.  She has projects languishing in the bottom of the stash that have been there for years because she can’t quite brings herself to sew together their constituent parts.  But her knitting skill is jaw-dropping.  She can knit back at the speed of light.  She plays down her ability but on our last visit, when pressed, reluctantly produced a jumper in progress for her first grandchild (our nephew) with some of the most incredible aran work I’ve seen.  Of course, it’s in its many parts still.  I suspect I may be pressed into sewing-up service over Christmas.

These three women stand out among all my knitting friends and books as being the most influential on my knitting beginnings.  I’ve matured as a knitter now, though,  and have found my own way, style and identity.  The other day I found myself explaining something to my mother (how to make an i-cord).  It’s not that the student has become the teacher quite yet (!) but rather that I suddenly realised I’m a knitter now, not an apprentice.  I just hope that one day I’ll have people to whom I can pass on the craft – whether daughters or nieces or grandchildren, even sons or nephews maybe – because at the end of the day there’s nothing quite so satisfying as making something yourself out of love and toil and giving it to someone to cherish.

Finlay

A new design from Mrs Oh!

The Finlay scarf is one of the warmest scarves you will ever come across*.  Made with super soft, super chunky 100% acrylic, it’s go anywhere in any weather good, and you can chuck it in the washing machine at a low temperature if you accidentally get any mince pie crumbs on it!

And, in case you’re wondering where the excellent name came from, this is named for good friends of Mrs Oh! who have recently had their first little boy, born on the self same day this scarf was finished.  Congrats, guys!!

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*there is no scientific basis for this claim… but it is really warm!

Underground knitting

I have made a happy habit of tube knitting recently. I dont mean knitting in the round, or one of those weird ‘French knitting’ mushroom things. I mean knitting on the underground.

I’m not a natural commuter. For the last 3 years I have either cycled to work or ridden my Vespa. But (through no fault of my own I’d like to point out!) I haven’t been able to renew the insurance on my Vespa this year, and the weather lately has been, uh, inclement at best (gale force at worst), so I’ve temporarily taken to the tube.

Despite an English degree and a love of reading, I’m not a natural tube reader. I need a bit more wake up time before I plunge into anything too heavy, and I’m too vain to cart around Chicklit. So I decided the best thing I can do on my 3 hr round trip commute is to knit. I find it relaxing and destracting enough to pass the time and it gives me time to work on presents for my friends and their kids as well as stuff for the shop. And yes, I’ve perfected the art of knitting in a space narrower than my shoulders so as not to elbow people on either side (it’s all about holding one needle vertical and knitting at 90 degrees!)

Yesterday, doing the last few bits of a friend’s birthday present I became aware, like you do, of a pair of eyes on me. I looked up and there was a young French girl watching me. She was enthralled. “Elle est vite!” she conmented to her mother. When her father blocked her view of the growing scarf she forcibly pushed him aside. Between Green Park and London Bridge my knitting was an object of unabashed fascination.

She’s not the only person ever to have gawped – I frequently get looks ranging from inquisitive to pitying to amused, from all sorts of commuters – but few are quite so obvious in their amazement as she was.

On my way off the tube at London Bridge I summoned up my best schoolgirl French and said to her “Tu peut l’appendre comme meme. C’est pas difficile!” which I’m hoping, roughly translated, means “you could learn you know – it’s not hard!”.

I have a vague fantasy that simply by knitting in public I may have passed on a very calming, productive (and let’s face it, pretty cool) skill to the next generation, as well as ensuring handmade gifts for all her friends for many years to come, but I realise this is highly unlikely. Ah well. At the very least, she’s got a funny story about “la folle qui tricotait au metro” that she can tell her pals when she gets back home…

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